Tie To Tedford Coming LooseMarch 1st, 2014
The messiest Bucs unit is their highly-paid and underperforming offensive line. That combination is a recipe for fast change, especially with a new regime roaming the halls of One Buc Palace.
So where do you start fixing?
That’s a great question, but the better one is, when? Immediately, is the only answer. The Bucs at the very least need a decent left guard and better depth in a hurry.
Joe’s brought up the name of Brian de la Puente before. Drew Brees’ center is set to become a free agent, and the Saints have salary cap issues. Saints beat writer Larry Holder, of NOLA.com, is convinced the Saints will lose their center on the open market.
STARTERS: Brian de la Puente — The Saints’ starting center the past three seasons is one of the best free-agent options in the league behind Cleveland’s Alex Mack. This tells me the Saints will likely have to fork over a decent chunk of change to satisfy de la Puente, who earned a little more than $2 million in 2013.
I’ve written repeatedly how the Saints have a penchant for being thrifty at center as Jeff Faine and Jonathan Goodwin both found more lucrative contracts elsewhere when they hit free agency. I could easily see the same happening to de la Puente, as there will be a market for him.
Joe’s researched de la Puente via various sources. And Joe can confidently say de la Puente is very close to his former “Cal” offensive coordinator, some guy named Jeff Tedford. (Pro Bowler Alex Mack (referenced above) also is a Cal guy.)
Replacing Jeremy Zuttah at center would free up Zuttah to compete for a starting left guard spot, a position he’s played effectively before, and places him the role of super sixth man. Joe would retain Zuttah. The Bucs need a versatile, durable guy like him given the Carl Nicks situation. (Nicks is unlikely to be cut because he has so much guaranteed cash coming his way.)
In 2008, Zuttah played extremely well at right guard for Davin Joseph, and he’s since proven to be an average starting center. In college, he was a right tackle and can play there in a pinch. With the Bucs, Zuttah made his rookie splash learning Jon Gruden’s complex playbook in a matter of weeks — at all o-line positions. Joseph, by comparison, has said it took him a full year to understand Gruden’s offense at only the right guard position.
Joe thinks the Bucs are likely to make a move on de la Puente, who is 28 years old but has little NFL mileage on his legs (28 starts), assuming the “value” Jason Licht speaks of is there.